iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: The winner will surprise you

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12
(Image credit: Future)

The iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 is the sibling smackdown you’ll want to spectate to make the best buying decision. Both phones — the lowest tiers of the iPhone 12 line — have a handful of similarities, including an iPhone 5-esque design, a three-camera array, a matchless A14 bionic chip, 5G compatibility, and a custom-designed, Super Retina XDR, OLED display.

At this point, you may be wondering, “If they’re so similar, what’s the difference between the two?”

Although the iPhone mini and the iPhone 12 may seemingly have a lot in common, our test results revealed that one is better than the other. So which one has the upper hand? I’ll give you a hint —  never underestimate the underdog.

Watch these lower-tier iPhone 12 devices go head-to-head in several rounds where we score their performance, battery life, display, cameras and more. This iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 face-off will give you the clarity you’ll need to determine which new-generation Apple smartphone is the perfect fit for you.

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iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12
Row 0 - Cell 0 iPhone 12 miniiPhone 12
Display (refresh rate)60Hz, 5.4-inch, OLED, Super Retina XDR, 2340 x 108060Hz, 6.1-inch, OLED, Super Retina XDR, 2532 x 1170
CPUApple A14 BionicApple A14 Bionic
Storage Starts at 64GB Starts at 64GB
MicroSD slotNoNo
Rear camerasTwo 12MP lenses (wide, ultra wide)Two 12MP lenses (wide, ultra wide)
Front camera12MP, f/2.2 aperture, TrueDepth12MP, f/2.2 aperture, TrueDepth
Battery size2,227 mAh2,815 mAh
Water resistanceYes, IP68 Yes, IP68
ColorsBlue, black, white, red and greenBlue, black, white, red and green
Dimensions5.18 x 2.53 x 0.29 inches5.78 x 2.81 x 0.29 inches
Weight4.76 ounces5.78 ounces

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: price and value 

 The iPhone 12 mini starts at $699 for a 64GB model with 4GB of RAM. The most expensive configuration, the version we reviewed, costs $849 with 256GB of storage.

The iPhone 12 starts at $799 and comes with 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM. The 256GB model we tested for our review costs $949.

For both models, we recommend upgrading to the 128GB configuration, which is a price hike of $150 more for the iPhone 12 mini and only $50 more for the iPhone 12.

 Winner: iPhone 12 mini  

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: design

The 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini, staying true to its name, is the miniature version of the 6.1-inch iPhone 12. The iPhone 12 mini, with dimensions of 5.2 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches, is as light as a feather at 4.8 ounces. The iPhone 12, sporting dimensions of 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 inches, weighs 5.8 ounces. The mini is 20% smaller and 18% lighter than the iPhone 12.

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 (Image credit: Future)

Both phones fit into my favorite pair of jeans, but the iPhone 12 sticks out from my back pocket while the iPhone 12 mini is completely out of sight. The mini also fits snugly in the palm of my hand, while the iPhone 12 is slightly more cumbersome.

The folks at Apple pointed out that the ultra-thin bezels are slimmer on the mini, but it’s not something you’d notice upon casual inspection. Unfortunately, both phones feature a grotesque top notch that invades the display’s real estate, impeding the lower-tier iPhone 12s from sporting higher screen-to-body ratios.

The mini and the iPhone 12 have a flat-edge, squarish design that will remind you of the good ol’ iPhone 5 from 2013. Both Apple devices are wrapped in an aerospace-grade aluminum enclosure. The back of the phones have a glossy coating while the edges sport a matte finish. The rear dual-lens array, embedded inside a squircle camera module, looks like a funny-looking two-eyed cyclops.

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 (Image credit: Future)

You’ll find the silencer and volume buttons on the left edge of both phones while the side button, used to activate Siri and awaken the device, can be found on the right edge. On the bottom edge is a set of mics and Dolby Atmos 3D spatial speakers, as well as a lightning port for charging.

Although I have an affinity for larger phones, there’s something cute and charming about the Mini’s tiny form factor that tugs at my heartstrings.

Winner: iPhone 12 mini

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: display

The iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 have OLED, Super Retina XDR displays equipped with Ceramic Shield glass screens infused with crystalline structures that increases drop performance fourfold.

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini (Image credit: Future)

So what’s different? The iPhone 12 mini has a 2340 x 1080-pixel screen while the iPhone 12 has a 2532 x 1170-pixel panel. Also, the mini’s pixel density is 476 pixels per inch while the iPhone 12 has a pixel density of 460 ppi. The mini’s pixel density is slightly higher, but the difference is imperceptible.

To test the displays, we watched The Mandalorian Season 2 trailer on both phones. We were impressed with the crisp, high-definition details as we gawked at Baby Yoda’s wispy hair and ogled at the flowing tresses of a yak-like beast that stood on a mountainous terrain. 

However, the phones’ 60Hz screens pale in comparison to the displays on high-end Android flagships and the vividness of colors on both Apple devices seem to be lacking. The iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 have satisfactory, highly detailed screens, but they could be more colorful and striking.

iPhone 12 review

iPhone 12 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

According to our colorimeter, the iPhone 12 mini covers 83% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, giving it a negligible edge over the iPhone 12 (81%). The iPhone 12’s display, on the other hand, is more radiant than the 505-nit iPhone 12 mini, emanating 570 nits of brightness. The mini’s color-coverage edge is imperceptible and the brightness score difference has a greater delta, so I’ll have to hand the iPhone 12 the win.

Winner: iPhone 12 

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: performance

The iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 are powered by the A14 bionic chip, the world’s fastest smartphone SoC. Both devices are equipped with 4GB of RAM — a step up from the entry-level iPhone 11 that had 3GB of RAM. 

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini (Image credit: Future)

When we inundated both phones with an avalanche of apps to test their multitasking muscles, the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 didn’t flinch. If you love running countless apps simultaneously, you needn’t worry because both phones can handle your blitzkrieg of heavy productivity without lagging.

The iPhone 12 mini is tiny, but mighty, shocking us all with its performance benchmarks. On the Geekbench 5.0 overall performance test, the iPhone 12 mini blew us away with a record-breaking score of 4,123. Not only did the Mini beat the iPhone 12 (3,859), but it also defeated the iPhone 12 Pro (3,669) and the iPhone 12 Pro Max (4,111).

On the Jetstream 2.0 benchmark, a web-browser test designed to measure JavaScript performance, the iPhone 12 mini achieved a score of 195.9, outperforming the iPhone 12 (169.8).

iPhone 12 review

iPhone 12 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

In our Adobe Premiere Rush video editing test, the iPhone 12 mini took 27.8 seconds to finish rendering a set of tasks, which is slightly slower than the iPhone 12 (26.4 seconds).

On the 3DMark Wild Life graphics performance benchmark, the iPhone 12 mini served up a score of 6,626 (39 frames per second) while the iPhone 12 lost by a nose with a score of 6,562 (also 39 frames per second).

The iPhone 12 was right on the heels of its tinier sibling, but the mini had a slight lead over its 6.1-inch counterpart.

Winner: iPhone 12 mini 

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: battery life and charging

With a smaller battery (2,227 mAh), the iPhone 12 mini never stood a chance against the iPhone 12 (2,815 mAh).

iPhone 12 with AirPods and MagSafe

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12 (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

On the Laptop Mag battery test (continuous surfing over a cellular network at 150 nits of brightness), the mini survived for only 7 hours and 28 minutes. The iPhone 12 lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes. The iPhone 12 series has been getting a lot of flack for having a shorter battery life compared to its predecessor (the iPhone 11 offered at least 10 hours of battery life). There is, however, a way to increase the iPhone 12’s battery life: by turning off the power-draining 5G.

The iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 Pro do not ship with power adapters because Apple wants to “save the planet” or something (yeah, right!). The phones do come with a USB-C-to-Lightning cable, but not the MagSafe wireless charging pad Apple’s been hawking. You’ll need a USB-C power brick to use the cable and the MagSafe charger.

We used a 20W power brick and the MagSafe charging pad to power up the iPhone 12 phones. The mini charged to 33% after 15 minutes and 60% after 30 minutes. The iPhone 12 charged to 16% after 15 minutes and 31% after 30 minutes. 

Winner: iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12: cameras

There are no differences between the cameras on the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12. Both sport three 12MP cameras: a f/2.2 aperture TrueDepth front-facing lens, an f/1.6  aperture, 1.4µm wide lens and an f/2.4 aperture, 120-degree ultra-wide lens.

iphone 12 mini review

iPhone 12 mini (Image credit: Future)

The mini and the iPhone 12 have also been stripped of the telephoto lens and LiDAR scanner that are featured on the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The telephoto lens heightens zoom capabilities and LiDAR enhances low-light performance and AR experiences.

Wide lens

The wide lens on the mini and the iPhone 12 features Apple’s first-ever, seven-element lens with a new f/1.6  aperture — the fastest yet on an iPhone. Traditional daylight photography on the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 begets impressive results thanks to features such as Lens Correction, Smart HDR 3 and Deep Fusion.

The camera samples below show how well both phones can capture a range of colors as autumn makes its beautiful debut in the untouched wilderness.

One limitation both phones have is their zoom performance. The iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 are equipped with digital zoom that goes up to 5x. The iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max, on the other hand, sport telephoto lenses that offer 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. In my experience with the iPhone 12 Pro, the telephoto lens provides sharper zoomed photos.

Zoomed photos typically drop in quality compared to non-zoomed photos, but zoom performance on the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 fares worse than the upper-tier iPhone 12 models.

Ultra-wide lens

The ultra-wide lens on the mini and the iPhone 12, offering a 120-degree field-of-view, is optimal for scenic, picturesque landscape shots, group photos and other scenarios that require a wide-ranging snapshot.

The colors aren’t as vivid on the ultra-wide shots, but I love how the photos can capture details far into the distance. On the iPhone 12 mini’s ultra-wide photo, the menacing clouds above, stretching miles ahead, threaten heavy downpour. On the iPhone 12, the friendly, vast skies grow dim as nighttime approaches.

Night mode

All cameras now feature Night Mode (the iPhone 11 only had Night Mode on its wide lens). Another feature now available on all three cameras is Deep Fusion, a technology that dramatically improves texture and detail of low-light photos. The new wide lens camera captures 27% more light than its predecessor.

If you’re a night prowler who often ends up socializing in low-lit environments, the Night Mode feature is a must for social media-approved photos.

The darker your environment, the longer the shutter will stay open to receive more light. Night Mode on the iPhone 12 mini and the iPhone 12 is satisfactory; you will find a slight drop in color accuracy and detail, but this is to be expected. My experience with Night Mode on the iPhone 12 Pro was slightly better as it is equipped with a LiDAR scanner that uses lasers to determine depth perception, which offers more information to the camera in low-lit environments.

Front-facing camera

The front-facing, TrueDepth cameras on the mini and the iPhone 12 are good — too good, capturing subtle features in our faces that we don’t regularly notice. Portrait mode offers an impressive selection of effects. Here are some selfies, featuring our staff writer Sean Riley and me, with one of our favorite effects: High-Key Light Mono.

Overall winner: iPhone 12 mini

The iPhone 12, in my opinion, doesn’t offer enough bells and whistles for me to recommend it over the iPhone 12 mini. 

iPhone 12 mini vs. iPhone 12

iPhone 12 mini (Image credit: Future)

The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 is slightly heavier and larger than the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini, which, for some, is unfavorable. The iPhone 12 mini, on the other hand, is a lil’ pocket rocket that fits snugly in your jeans.

The iPhone 12 mini also outperformed the iPhone 12 on most benchmarks, including Geekbench 5, JetStream 2 and the 3DMark graphics test. But in defense of the iPhone 12, it offers a brighter display and longer-lasting battery life. You must ask yourself whether a larger, brighter display and an additional hour of battery life is worth the extra $100.

With the iPhone 12 mini unexpectedly running neck-and-neck with the iPhone 12 (and oftentimes outpacing its higher-priced sibling), the mini deserves to be the champion of this face-off.

Kimberly Gedeon

Kimberly Gedeon, holding a Master's degree in International Journalism, launched her career as a journalist for MadameNoire's business beat in 2013. She loved translating stuffy stories about the economy, personal finance and investing into digestible, easy-to-understand, entertaining stories for young women of color. During her time on the business beat, she discovered her passion for tech as she dove into articles about tech entrepreneurship, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the latest tablets. After eight years of freelancing, dabbling in a myriad of beats, she's finally found a home at Laptop Mag that accepts her as the crypto-addicted, virtual reality-loving, investing-focused, tech-fascinated nerd she is. Woot!